Resources Needed and Issues of Students In Distant Education

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Distant Education and Resources Needed and Issues of Students

Resources Needed and Issues of Students In Distant Education

Resources Needed For Distance Education In Nursing,Issues Related To Student Perspectives Of Distance Education.

Resources Needed For Distance Education In Nursing 

    Faculty development was a critical component to the college's move to distance education technology. Faculty members received funding to develop their multimedia expertise at courses on and off campus. A seed grant from the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) was instrumental in facilitating the first online course. 

    Faculty involved in that collaborative course provided online instruction development sessions for other faculty. Additionally, all faculty have a Blackboard site for each course they teach, whether the course is offered in the traditional format or using distance education. However, the college always has viewed distance technology only as a different educational delivery modality, and has not reduced teaching loads or given extra credit to faculty who teach using this methodology. 

Issues Related To Student Perspectives Of Distance Education In Nursing

    Most distance-education graduate students are balancing multiple demands during school, including the rigors of course work, outside employment, family, and running a household. These demands are the realities faced by most students in nursing who enroll in distance education courses. Although we cannot teach differently to students based on their outside demands, the structure of their busy lives does warrant consideration.

    For distance education to be effective, it is essential for faculty to change the way they traditionally teach in the classroom. Both faculty and students must become proficient with the technology available to maximize the experience. De Bourgh (2003) presents various strategies faculty may use to promote student satisfaction in distance delivered courses. 

    These include inviting student contact in a variety of modalities (eg, e-mail, online discussion boards, face-to-face and virtual office hours), and the effective use of instructional technology (for example, providing an online tutorial at the start of the course to ensure that students are able to use available course materials effectively).

    Learning via distance education is most effective when it is student-centered (Kennedy, 2002). Faculty are encouraged to focus on “educational distance” rather than physical distance. When faculty focus on physical distance, they focus more on geography. When the focus is educational distance, delivery and support mechanisms engage students in understanding the material and communicating with colleagues and faculty in a personalized and collaborative learning process (Kennedy, 2002).

    When courses are taught via video or online, students are able to view course material at a time convenient to them. However, one of the most important considerations of videotaped courses is the currency of the information. Courses such as pharmacology are often out-of-date by the time a videotaped course is used in a second semester. Although faculty can always meet with students to clarify information, it is ideal if updated information is presented initially. 

    However, often schools must meet the demand for pharmacology faculty via creative arrangements, because they may be difficult to recruit. We have addressed these limitations by using videotaped sessions in only a limited number of courses and retaping courses annually to maintain currency of content. 

    Viewing exams can be a challenge with distance education courses. Unlike the traditional classroom setting where students are given the opportunity to review tests and learn why they missed questions, this opportunity may be neglected using a distance education format. Time set either aside on campus or virtually might assist students to feel more comfortable with the examination process in distance education courses. Time can be used to review exams and to clarify material students may not have understood.

    Blackboard, review sessions, and assembling course packages with articles and book chapters to supplement the learning experience are techniques faculty can use to augment student learning in distance education courses. Periodic conferences following class that focus on a specific topic can also be useful in providing students opportunities to interact with each other and to reinforce important concepts from the reading and clinical experiences.

    For students, technological problems are often the most frustrating experience associated with distance education. Addressing these issues prior to the beginning of the course is ideal. Changing the delivery format (eg, from videotape to Internet) too close to beginning the class or switching formats mid-semester is also problematic. 

    Last minute downloads of software and reading materials can be problematic for some students, and other students may not be able to access the materials prior to the start of class without adequate notice. Streamlined video and slides that do not work properly are also frustrating. Technical assistance needs to be readily available 24/7 to assist students with problems related to technology. 

    As online learning opportunities increase, institutions will need to make this level of technical support available to increase the recruitment and retention of students in such courses (Alexander et al., 2003), USC has “live” help during normal work hours and an e -mail contact to address problems after hours.

    “Warmer” types of media such as videoconferencing, online char discussions, and hybrid courses with a mix of online and face-to-face activities are more likely to encourage participant interactions (Atack, 2003). Faculty should also assist students to become comfortable with the technology they will need to successfully participate in the course, As suggested by Harasim et al. (1995), the course template should include an orientation unit to prepare students taking the course. 

    In addition to providing guidance on how to use the technology, a module should introduce students to self-directed learning and contain initial community-building activities. Even with experienced distance-education learners, an orientation module is helpful to get all participants to know each other and clarify expectations for the course. 

    An effective online community must be nurtured by faculty who carefully develop and sequence interactive learning activities (Carr & Farley, 2003). By addressing the various aspects of distance education discussed, faculty can integrate the critical components needed to ensure that course objectives are met successfully. As technology continues to improve, distance education will have an even stronger presence. 

    Student evaluations of distance education are useful for improvement. At USC, distance education students complete the same course evaluation form online as other students do, using traditional delivery formats. This evaluation incorporates some questions related to the distance education format and technical difficulties.

    College of Nursing faculty are committed to continuing the use of distance education formats for course delivery. These pedagogies meet the needs of our students in a time of nursing shortage and information explosion. Students who otherwise might not be able to advance their education are able to enroll in nursing courses and earn degrees. 

    In 2004, 20 years after our first venture into distance education delivery, closed circuit television, VHS tapes, videoconferencing, teleconferencing, compressed video, and online courses are used to deliver courses, making the College of Nursing a leader in distance education on campus and across the nation.

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